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Game Design: The Art & Business Of Creating Games
Bob Bates
Publisher: Prima Tech (Now Premier Press)
ISBN: 0-7615-3165-3
Purchasing: [Amazon.Com] - RRP US$29.99
Reviewed: 28th May 2002

Front Cover Shot:


Game design in the more technical sense is one area in game development that really seems to be overlooked by some people/teams. You could go as far as saying that many of the rubbish titles released could have been drastically improved if the team had spent a little bit more time on the conceptual side of development.

However, many smaller teams and solo developers don't often bother with a full-blown design document; instead they just play it by sight and sound - hoping they get it right as they go along. I'll be the first to admit that several of my previous games have started from a few scribbled notes on a single piece of A4 paper, and more than enough of them were eventually cancelled due to the code becoming a complete mess because of no fixed plan/feature set.

Therefore, I think it should be made compulsory that all serious game developers do some research into how to design their games, and then actually put this into practice. To my knowledge, this is only the second book to cover the topic - with the first by Rollings and Morris, reviewed here.

Short and to the Point

This is not a big book, nor does it need to be. Weighing in at 300 pages, 5 parts and 14 chapters there is more than enough meat in here.

The book is generally designed to follow the progress of a game - from absolutely nothing through to selling 10 million copies (well, maybe not quite that many!). Each of the five parts focuses on one stage of the game development cycle:

1. Design - putting the initial design together
2. Teams - who and how to manage your team
3. Development - managing the technical aspects and actually completing the game
4. The Business - publishing and promoting your game
5. Conclusion - summing everything up

You Talkin' To Me?

This book, unlike the majority of the others in the series, isn't directly aimed at the programmers. This book is of most benefit to those who want to design, manage and/or produce the game - and have other members of the team do most of the technical work.

Having said that, it would still be a good book to read no-matter what your position in the team is, and if you are the top-dog then it would probably be worth making the rest of the team read it! It is far easier to become an expert at your particular field and pay very little attention to how others ply their trade than to be an expert at your own subject and appreciate how the whole system works together.

Words of Wisdom

The book is essentially bite-sized, often presenting an idea or ideas and then applying them to different genre'; or vice versa. The majority of the tips and comments in this book are fairly common sense - I'm sure anyone intelligent enough to make it onto a game development team would be able to come up with a list of similar points. However, it is very refreshing and very useful to have it all in one place - in one handy little resource. 

Whilst reading this book I found myself almost nodding with agreement at many of the arguments raised. There is quite a lengthy part on puzzles/challenges - what to use, how to use it and more importantly what NOT to use in order to entertain a player. Having made more than enough simple desktop puzzles over the years I now realize the number of foolish puzzles and challenges I've used in the past. Yet at the same time, I'm still nodding at the plain-common-sense behind it all - and hence kicking myself for not just using my head when writing these games!!

Big Brother

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Andrew Rollings and Dave Morris wrote another very similar book entitled Game Architecture and Design (Coriolis). This book is both bigger and in more depth than the one reviewed here. Rollings and Morris's book takes a much more text-book/academic approach to the subject, and isn't quite as readable. However, it is probably the better text simply due to it's depth.

Although don't hold that against this book. As I said, Game Architecture and Design is written much more formally and is therefore not as entertaining a read as Game Design: The Art & Business of creating games is. Also, as far as bite-size, to the point content this book wins hands down.

The only real advantage that Game Architecture and Design clearly has is it's use of case studies - even if not all of them were "real-life" studies. They're use of case studies to illustrate points was very effective. This book does not explicitly use case studies in the same way, there are still contextual examples - but just not to the same degree.

Still Good

In conclusion this is still a book worth having, even if Game Architecture and Design does have several advantages over this one. One point I didn't mention earlier was that this is part of the "Prima Tech's Game Development Series" (only visual difference is a few different logo's and headers); whilst the newly formed "premier press" which now handles this series seem to be continuing the series just the same, it may well be that these older books are the first to go out of print. If you're contemplating buying this book, it may well be worth getting it sooner rather than later...

Good Things Bad Things
Well written, too the point Game Architecture and Design may well be the better book for some
Good structure/flow Not much use if you already own Game Architecture and Design
A more enjoyable read than Game Architecture and Design Published on the older "Prima-Tech" label, so may not be around for much longer
Works well as a resource  
Author definitely has plenty of experience in the industry  
Reasonably Priced for what it is (cheaper than Game Architecture and Design)  


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